EXPERIENCE ROCK HISTORY and COUNTER CULTURE ARCHIVES!
the film and the soundtrack album
So, it’s mid July 1969 00individual and his girlfriend are seated front row center in the balcony of the Historic Fox/Regency Theater in Westwood Village (UCLA) waiting for the lights to dim for the premiere of the film “Easy Rider”.
00individual made it part of his religion to be at every first showing of every film worth seeing and there were many, many excellent films to see back in the last historic film era of the pre-mid ’70s – back when films were judged by their quality not their box office take.
Sometimes these films were shown at one of the great cultural joys of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, the drive-in movies, or more accurately known as the Passion Pit – as it allowed us teens the place and the privacy to do anything we wanted, undisturbed in our cars – and we did.
And while the drive-ins were famous for B-Movies interspersed with First Runs, the Sex part of Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll usually won out over whatever was on the massive screens.
And when the windows blocked with moisture condensation generated by the body heat inside caused by exhaustive passionate sex, we’d fall asleep in the backseat, only to be awoken by the drive-in attendant’s taps on the car window to the reality that the movies were over and everyone had vacated the premises. It happened more than once, and was a natural occurrence in Passion Pits across America.
00individual bought a green straight-eight 1951 Buick “Love Mobile” in 1967 for $33- and had the trans sealed for $66- so for $99 – he was mobile! Note the “spaciousness and comfort” benefits stated toward the end of this clever advertisement – it really was spacious and comfortable. And it did have a way with women!
Sex was not the only fun to be had as this was the beginning of Roger Corman and other maverick film-makers’ Outlaw Biker films. 00individual can specifically remember seeing Born Losers with Tom “Billy Jack” Laughlin (1967/69), The Glory Stompers (1967) and the Savage Seven (1968) at the drive-in and enjoying these deliberately exploitative modern day western outlaw movies where motorcycles replaced horses and gangs rode into town for good or ill.
Soon the Flower Children over-powered the Outlaw Bikers in the movie genre popularity backstreet brawl and the prevailing Psychedelic Hippie Love Vibe influence created trippy movies like: Alice’s Restaurant (1969), Head (1968), The Happening (1967), Medium Cool (1969), The Party (1968), I Love You, Alice B. Toklas (1968), Psych-Out (1968), The Trip (1967), The President’s Analyst (1967) and the classic whacked, over thirty-five put into LSD camps, Wild in the Streets (1968).
Rising from the ashes as a swan song to the Outlaw Biker genre, and blended with the psychedelic Hippie ethos, there was one “Last Movie” with something to say: Easy Rider.
There was a prevailing vibe, a serious connection for those of us who sensed that this was going to be special – not as far-minded as it historically became – but special for us, to us, to the Counter Culture.
A movie made by Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper, both heavy-duty movie pros and icons from their Outlaw Biker movie days that knew the scene, the vibe, and the people – and had the power
and talent to pull it off.
The righteous Rock songs advertised for the soundtrack, and to a certain extent Jack Nicholson, a well-known crossover American International Pictures horror and biker actor and Roger Corman stalwart, contributed to the cool vibe.
And at a time when real life Hippie road trips were common, the subject of the film was intriguing –
two realistic Hippie Bikers on a road trip.
But it was the advertised tagline to the film’s posters / ads that revealed a darker realistic side,
“A man went looking for America, and couldn’t find it anywhere.”
That statement shook a generation to the core.
We were taught and raised to trust and respect all of the people in power; policemen, priests, teachers, our military, our government, our president and our parents – all of whom failed us in the mid-to-late-’60s and early ’70s, due to ignorance, ego, power, tradition, corruption and money.
The America we were led to believe that was out there, wasn’t.
We were shown and proven of these realities every day in the news, on TV and radio.
And in protesting the Vietnam “War” and all of the other injustices that were surfacing because of our newly acquired awareness, the Youth of America became the sworn enemy of the state.
So, with all of that in mind . . .
. . . back in the theater for the premiere of Easy Rider:
The lights fully dimmed and the red velvet curtains parted to reveal Hopper’s beautiful story-telling direction to the sound of Steppenwolf’s drug-induced heavy psychedelic blues, “The Pusher” – the film was off on an impressive groove.
After Captain America (Fonda) and Billy the Kid (Hopper) finish their drug deal with Phil Spector, Fonda memorializes the now iconic symbol of freedom from the Establishment and from Time itself, as he takes off his wristwatch, looks at it one last time and throws it on the ground. They both “head out on the highway, looking for adventure” and as their images get smaller in the distance —
Wham! A blast of image and sound signaled a whole new film era – Steppenwolf’s “Born To Be Wild” explodes with a close-up of Fonda, roaring down the highway on his chopper, his shades gleaming in the sunshine, Hopper pulls up into frame and we’re off – off with them on a journey across America that became a feature length acid trip.
Truth, and levels of reality are peeled back as the Bikers progress on their road “trip”.
Nicholson makes his now legendary cinematic star-turn as a drunken Southern lawyer and then, before we knew it . . .
. . . suddenly it was over!
Everyone in the theater experienced the very first, for real, on the record; WTF?
That’s right, What The Fuck? Wham! Bam! Stunned. Speechless.
People didn’t know how to react and left the theater like shocked zombies.
No one had seen anything like this before, not only the whole experience of the movie but the unexpected ending. Today, that’s in Movie Endings 101 Top Ten, but back in ’69 Fonda, Hopper, Nicholson and writer Terry Southern shocked a generation and society at large with their truly mind-blowing ending; a powerful moment in cinema, a powerful statement about America.
They delivered a hard core, deeply moving, honest film that spoke our language, understood our feelings and beliefs, portrayed characters naturally (as many were just citizens of the towns where they filmed and actual commune Hippies) and finally gave a voice and shined a light on the Counter Culture as peaceful free spirits trying to exist in a land that would kill to maintain irrelevant tradition.
Easy Rider is a stone iconic landmark in American Culture – a seminal, serious, creative force,
a psychedelic film noir, a karmic western, a spiritual journey – a kick ass movie and soundtrack!
The Easy Rider soundtrack had some very heavyweight and iconic tracks that were powerful additives to the film and to the Culture – in some cases nearly inseparable from the filmed scenes.
Apparently this was the very first film soundtrack existing solely from music provided by existing Rock, Folk Rock and Psychedelic Rock tracks. The group Smith stands in for The Band due to contractual issues, McGuinn wrote “Ballad Of. . .” for the film and sings Dylan’s “It’s Alright . . .”.
This was really the soundtrack to a brave adventurous new era in film, and film style, that still reverberates and strongly influences today.
Full Soundtrack Album
1. “The Pusher” – Steppenwolf
2. “Born To Be Wild” – Steppenwolf
3. “The Weight” – Smith
4. “Wasn’t Born To Follow” – The Byrds
5. “If You Want To Be A Bird (Bird Song)” – The Holy Modal Rounders
6. “Don’t Bogart Me (Aka Don’t Bogart That Joint”) – Fraternity Of Man
7. “If 6 Was 9” – The Jimi Hendrix Experience
8. “Kyrie Eleison/Mardi Gras (When The Saints)” – The Electric Prunes
9. “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” – Roger McGuinn
10. “Ballad Of Easy Rider” – Roger McGuinn
1975 – 00individual – Malibu, CA
1969 Harley Davidson 900 cc Sportster Custom Paint and Chromed
Righteous! Good Times! Loved That Bike!
Bought it for $1400-, sold it a few years later for $1400-.
Within ten years it was going for $14,000-.
A true Harley – one of the last model years before AMF bought HD.
00individual was fortunate to have enjoyed it when it mattered.
For more fun please see:
1960’s and 1970’s Culture Archives
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